Old Cathedral of Coimbra

The Romanesque Sé Velha de Coimbra is almost as old as Portugal itself.  The construction of the cathedral was ordered and financed by Dom Afonso Henrique, the first king of Portugal.  Construction took many years, but the construction was advanced enough by 1185 that the coronation of Dom Sancho I, the second king of Portugal, took place in the cathedral. 

The cathedral’s construction was finished early in the 13th century, with the construction of the cloisters begun around the same time.  While there have been several additions to the cathedral, it is the only Romanesque cathedrals in Portugal to survive relatively intact over the centuries.

It’s a beautiful structure, strong like a fortress.  This photo is of the eastern  façade, with the semicircular apse.  I love the way the wispy cirrus clouds contrast with the angles and edges of the stones.

Old Cathedral

Fado de Coimbra

Fado is the national music of Portugal.  There are two distinct styles of Fado.  Lisbon Fado tends to be a little more upbeat and can be sung by both men and women.  The songs can be about a variety of subjects and can be accompanied by instruments other than the traditional Portuguese guitar and classical guitar.

Coimbra fado is a different style from the Lisbon version.  Coimbra Fado came about when the male students of the university would stand below a girl’s window and sing love songs to woo a young lady.  Because of this local tradition, Coimbra Fado is much more restricted.  Only male students or former students of Coimbra University, can perform Fado and the singers are only accompanied by the Portuguese guitar and classical guitar.  The songs are mostly love songs, but occasionally protest songs are sung.

This beautiful sculpture, titled Fado de Coimbra, celebrates the city’s version of the national music.   The Portuguese guitar has morphed into the form of a beautiful young woman, who is both the inspiration and the recipient of the song.  It’s a beautiful way to honor the city’s version of this wonderful music.

Fado de Coimbra

Fishing Boat, Nazaré, Portugal

Nazaré, a small beach town in Portugal, was once known as a fishing village.  These days it’s known more for its beaches and its big wave surfing.  There are still signs of the old fishing village, but these days they’re mostly for the tourists.

There are several old fishing boats on the praia, or beach.  They’re quite colorful; each boat has a different color and size.  I took several photos of the boats but I like this one best because the cliff-side fortaleza can be seen under the boat’s paddle.

Red Boat

Arched Stairs

In March we visited the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza in Guimarães, Portugal.  A beautiful structure, it’s hard to believe that a century ago the palace was in ruins.  It was renovated based on an analysis of other European palaces of the 15th century.  The newly reconstructed palace was opened to the public in 1959 and once served as an official residence of Portuguese dictator António de Oliveira Salazar.

The palace is full of interesting rooms with priceless antiques and paintings, but this arched staircase, with a simple wooden door at the bottom, caught my eye.  It’s primitive and elegant at the same time.

Arched Staircase

Crystal

Crystal came to us as a stray.  We had her for 12 years and we believe she was about 15 when she left us.  She was, to paraphrase A.A. Milne, a pointer of very little brain.

She lost her eyesight gradually and by the time she passed, she was completely blind.  She and I still played fetch every evening, I would direct her with “right, now left, almost there…good girl!”

One day she interrupted our fetch session and started wandering the yard.  I wasn’t worried;  the yard is fenced and she was safe.  She disappeared around the house and came back a few minutes later with a dead squirrel.  It was stiff as a board, but Crystal was proud of her prize and a bit disappointed when I took it away and disposed of it.

We named her after the Crystal Gayle song “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.”  She had just a couple little blue spots on otherwise brown eyes.  This photo shows her eyes well.

Crystal

Floral Arrangement, Louisa, Virginia, May 2018

Beauty can be found anywhere.  This floral arrangement was in our room at the wonderful Whistle Stop bed & breakfast in Louisa, Virginia.

Floral Arrangement

São Bento Railway Station, Porto Portugal, March 2018

Portugal is full of beautiful and wonderful sights.  From the beaches of the Algarve to the wilderness areas of the Minho, beauty is found everywhere.  Porto is home to one of the most beautiful railroad stations in the world.

The Convent of São Bento da Avé Maria originally stood where the São Bento Station now sits, but the original convent was destroyed in a fire in the 18th century and the rebuilt convent was in a state of disrepair when the decision was made to raze the convent and to build the station.

Porto architect José Marques da Silva was chosen to design the station.  The French Beaux-Arts was opened in 1900.  The exterior is quite striking.

Sao Bento Exterior
The Beaux-Arts exterior

The interior of the station, though, is what puts the São Bento Station on the list of most beautiful railroad stations.  Between 1905 and 1916, renowned artist Jorge Colaço covered the walls of the station with hand painted azulejos depicting historical events and scenes from around Portugal.  Colaço created many works of art throughout Portugal but São Bento Station is arguably his best work.

Sao Bento 6
The lobby

While most of the artwork are the blue and white tiles most commonly used, the top border is a mural of polychromatic tiles depicting the history of transportation.  One of the larger murals depicts Infante Dom Henrique’s victory at the battle of Ceuta.

Sao Bento Detail 2
Celebrating Infante Dom Henrique’s victory at Ceuta

Another mural celebrates the marriage of João I to Philippa of Lancaster.  The murals are all quite beautiful.

Sao Bento Detail 1
Celebrating the wedding of João I to Philippa of Lancaster

It’s important to remember that the São Bento Station is a working railway station and is a major transportation hub in the north of Portugal.  It may look like a museum but it still serves its original purpose and moves a lot of people every day.

Sao Bento 10
The busy station platforms

São Bento Station is a beautiful landmark and a can’t miss destination if you’re traveling in Portugal.

Bicycle, Louisa, Virginia, May 2018

This bicycle was outside a wonderful little bed & breakfast called the Whistle Stop in Louisa, Virginia.  I love the way the colors of the old rusted bike now blend with the greenery growing around and over it.  It’s as if the man made materials are becoming part of Nature.

Bicycle

Paulo Neves Sculpture, Braganza Palace, Guimarães, Portugal, March 2018

From the plaque:

“It is said that “trees die standing tall”.  But, the leafy horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) that lived here in front of the Palace of the Dukes, and whose trunk “slices” are exhibited here, fell ingloriously on a stormy night in 2016.  The chestnut fell, but the magnificence of the trunk and the beauty of its wood deserved better fate than that of ending up heating someone’s home.

“So, we challenged the sculptor Paulo Neves to use his creativity, and his great wisdom, and sensibility to give life to the old trunk. And thus, this set of pieces was born, beautiful in their natural simplicity, open in their core, rough on their exterior, combining the lightness of the wood and the darkness of the bark and adorned with two parallel incisions in a dark shade.  The old trunk turned into art to be enjoyed by all those who come by”.

Paolo Neves Art

Everywhere we went in Portugal, there was art.  From magnificent paintings in the local church to street art painted on a wall, it’s evident that the people of this country love art.  I love this piece for its simplicity and the way Paulo Neves uses Nature itself to create art.  Beauty can be found everywhere, even in the ruins of an old chestnut tree.